An incisive series of musings that lacks deeper, personal revelations.


A “Christian agnostic” explores the varied manifestations and challenges of fidelity in this collection of personal essays.

Nelson Botzler (If You Are Retiring, You Might Join the Peace Corps!, 2017), who has a Ph.D. in education, worked in multicultural curriculum development in schools and universities in northern California. Her understanding of teacher preparation and education strategies, her experience in the Peace Corps after retirement (the subject of her previous book), and her knowledge of multiple languages and faith traditions inform this broad-minded, intriguing, and introspective work. Described in the preface as a “small book” containing “brief reflections, profiles, and sets of open-ended questions,” it explores in 10 chapters (or “meditations”) the elusive ideal of fidelity, especially to oneself. Readers learn that fidelity affects creativity, compassion, rejuvenation, and especially relationships. In fact, Nelson Botzler devotes two chapters to relationships, which must not only be created, but also nurtured and sustained. Self-care is also important, and the author stresses that this is not an ascetic path but a means to becoming fully human. She mixes portraits of great humanitarians throughout history into her account, and each chapter concludes with bulleted questions asking the reader how to apply these insights in daily life. Though she draws primarily from Christian traditions, the author also borrows from Buddhist, Muslim, and Jewish concepts and particularly champions secular humanism as “a common intellectual framework for dialogue among and between diverse groups that is based on critical thinking, civility, and fairmindedness” within a democracy. The book is quite short, as are the profiles of the famous figures she includes. It would have been more effective to tell stories rather than have generic summaries of the lives of Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela, et al, who are already widely known. What is particularly lacking is the author’s own journey. She offers generalizations, like “humility also allows me to share my mistakes, to admit the harm I have done—whether intentionally or unintentionally” but declines to provide salient details about these errors or shortcomings. In addition, she never fully relates her struggles to comprehend fidelity. In the end, readers do not have enough information to form a clear picture of Nelson Botzler as an individual.

An incisive series of musings that lacks deeper, personal revelations.

Pub Date: June 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5127-9220-1

Page Count: 92

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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